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Success again

Visual impact-making epics, hilarious spoofs, chick flicks and scary movies. MINI ANTHIKAD-CHHIBBER gives you the lowdown on Hollywood 2004

THIS WAS a year when some directors spectacularly lived up to their promise and others failed to do so just as stupendously. Heading the list of successes is Peter Jackson who provided us with a stunning closure of his Lord of the Rings trilogy with The Return of the King. The movie, which swept the Academy Awards this year, with the top honours including best director and best picture, was an amazing piece of movie magic where special effects and live action blended together seamlessly.

Another director who delivered was Sam Raimi with Spider Man 2. Like the first movie, the sequel did not lose itself in a SFX vortex. The human element of superheroes was very much present as Tobey Maguire as Peter Parker is late for class, for MJ's play and late delivering a pizza — you would think a superhero should not have such problems. But that is precisely what made Spiderman so lovable as he fights existential angst alongside the evil Doc Ock.


And talking about the human side of superheroes, you have the animated The Incredibles and Hellboy also dealing with mundane problems like not fitting into your suit or trimming your horns.

The concluding part of Quentin Tarantino's roaring rampage of revenge, Kill Bill Vol II, upped the sadism and was a splatter fest to please the bloodthirsty. Shrek II with directors Conrad Vernon Kelly Ashbury and Andrew Adamson was as funny as the first with some really sly digs at Hollywood and the animation movies.

Salt water saga

Peter Weir's Master and Commander was a salt water saga while Steven Soderberg gave us two smart movies — Solaris, a thought-provoking science fiction thriller and Ocean's Twelve.

Heading the list of directors who were dramatic disappointments is M. Night Shyamalan with his The Village. An A-list cast including Sigourney Weaver, William Hurt, Adrien Brody and Joaquin Phoenix could not save this silly movie where Shyamalan tries so hard to make his celebrated twist in the tale that one can see it a mile off.

The other director who disappointed was Steven Spielberg with his hopelessly unreal The Terminal. Tom Hanks plays a refugee who is stuck in a terminal crowded with sweet wonderful people in this soppy sentimental mushy tale. After the sleek Minority Report and the super fun Catch Me If You Can, The Terminal was difficult to sit through — it made you feel like you were stuck in a terminal with your flight being delayed forever. Another director from whom great things were expected was Gurinder Chadha, who followed up her charming Bend it Like Beckham with the insufferably patronising Bride and Prejudice. Great things were also expected from Alex Proyas who gave us the wonderfully haunting Dark City. Unfortunately, he, too, went the blockbuster way with the no-brainer I Robot.

Minority Report's star Tom Cruise appeared in two movies this year — The Last Samurai where Ken Watanabe stole Cruise's thunder and Collateral where Cruise appears silver haired as a wicked assassin.

Not the second time

Anthony Minghella's Cold Mountain, which got Renee Zelwegger her Academy Award, could not repeat the magic of The English Patient. The leads — Jude Law and Nicole Kidman — were exquisite looking but totally lacked the incandescent chemistry of Ralph Fiennes and the luminescent Kristin Scott Thomas to say nothing of Juliet Binoche and Naveen Andrews. Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ had the Jewish lobby up in arms for promoting anti-Semitism. The movie was totally lacking in grace and proved beyond doubt that you cannot add a couple of "The-s" to a title, speak in a dead language (Aramaic) and let your camera linger lovingly on the many ways you could abuse human flesh to prove you are a serious filmmaker dealing with a serious theme — give us the fun of Monty Python's Life of Brian or Martin Scorsese's intensely personal Last Temptation of Christ any day.

Of the funnies, Freaky Friday was the pick of the lot, which included movies like Along Came Polly, Fifty First Dates, Hollywood Homicide, Starsky and Hutch and Round the World in 80 Days. Scary movies included the unintentionally hilarious Resident Evil: Apocalypse and Alien Vs Predator and the delightfully spoofy Dawn of the Dead.

Troy with a bronzed Brad Pitt as Achilles, a brooding Eric Bana as Hector and Orlando Bloom as the pretty Paris was Wolfgang Peterson's digitally enhanced version of the Trojan War.

Stone's epic

All who long for authenticity just have to wait for Oliver Stone's blood-drenched epic Alexander, which has Colin Farrell playing the Macedonian king and Angelina Jolie playing his mum Olympias.

The year definitely belonged to sequels as all the successful movies and not-so-successful ones were parts 2 or 3. The year ahead looks set for more sequels — the river of originality sure seems to have dried up big time.


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